Speaking of thematic inconsistency, it’s worth pointing out some trouble with another recent box office champion: Clash of the Titans. Whether or not the film remains faithful to the original 1981 film (or to the Greek myths on which both films are based) is not the issue. The more damning problem, as with Alice in Wonderland, is that the film seems to run contradictory to its own thematic thrust.
Gods play an important role in the world of Clash of the Titans. And in true god-like fashion, they’re selfish, envious, and wrathful. Worst of all, though, they’re real. Tired of living lives subservient to these beings, who demand too much in terms of worship and offer too little in return, humans decide to rebel. They no longer need the gods. To prove this point, a small band of warriors get together to topple a statue of Zeus. This, of course, hurts the gods’ feelings. Thus, Hades arrives to dish out immediate punishment. Unfortunately, an innocent family is killed in the skirmish. Only the adopted son, Perseus, survives.
Perseus, it turns out, is half god, and Zeus is his father. But so what? He now has a score to settle. And he’ll have a chance to do it, too. The gods have demanded that the people of Argos sacrifice their princess (whose parents claim her to be more beautiful than Aphrodite) or else they will release the Kraken and destroy the city. Sounds like a challenge. Perseus will fight the gods and, if necessary, kill the bloody Kraken.
And we’re rooting for him. Especially when he says he’ll do it as a man, not a god. Because that’s what we think the movie is about: humans standing up for themselves against unjust gods.
Perseus is staunch in his defiance. When he gets hurt and his companions beg him to pray to the gods for healing, he refuses. And when, because of his birthright, divine gifts keep popping up all over the place for him, he says flat out that he will not use them. Awesome! He will prove once and for all that humanity does not need the gods.
But, alas, as Perseus’s quest proves more and more difficult, he gives in. He uses the gifts from the gods, including a magical sword and a Pegasus. The latter will prove instrumental in his defeat of the Kraken. It looks like Perseus needs the gods after all. And he does not defeat the Kraken as a man; he does it as a demigod. So the humans, in turn, need the gods as well. To save them from the Kraken. Which the gods themselves released. Talk about an abusive relationship.
Perseus, rather than demonstrating that he can achieve his goals without divine assistance, actually validates humanity’s dependence on the gods. So if the film is not about humans standing up to the gods, what is it about? In the end, the humans in the film are either victims of the gods’ unjust wrath or pawns in a family feud between Zeus and Hades (with the demigod Perseus acting as middle man). What’s the point?
The closing scene is perhaps the best example of the film’s thematic inconsistency. After Perseus’s victory, Zeus tries persuading him to live as a god on Olympus. Perseus, despite choosing to be godlike for the film’s final act, now chooses to remain with the humans, maybe because it’s finally convenient for him do so. After all, he already defeated the Kraken. Regardless, Zeus rewards Perseus anyway by bringing his love interest back from the dead. Anything to keep him in line. Enjoy your happy ending, sucker.